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That’s Some Spicy Cranberry Sauce

By: 13 May 2010 No Comment

Anonymous cranberry sauce - a derivative work

It’s the time of year we start grilling with serious determination again.

There are a lot of great recipes out there for marinades and rubs and all kinds barbecue sauces. This cranberry based barbecue sauce is a little different, but very tasty. It is not required that you make it as spicy as all get out, but that’s the way I like it.

I should point out that with the possible exception of ribs this sauce really is not very good with beef. It is outstanding with chicken, and better than average on pork. I typically don’t add this sauce to the meat until the meat is basically done since it will burn pretty easy and while some nice blackened edges are nice, you really don’t want your bird covered in a sheath of charred cranberries.

The recipe is pretty simple, you’ll need this,

One large red onion
One medium garlic clove
One can of berry style cranberry sauce
A third cup of ketchup
One fourth cup brown sugar
One third cup apple cider vinegar
Chili powder
Tabasco sauce to taste
Orange zest
One 4oz can chopped jalapeños (or fresh if you have them)

The first thing I do is take the onion and garlic and chop them up in pieces about as big as your fingernail. Then I sauté them in a little olive oil. You don’t have to overdo it since you’re going to wind up simmering the sauce for awhile, but I like to at least get them to the point that they are translucent.

You can go ahead and dump the whole can of cranberry sauce in on top of the onions and garlic as soon as they are tender, and then add the ketchup, Tabasco, and vinegar along with your brown sugar, paprika and a sprinkling of cilantro. It doesn’t take a whole lot of chili powder I just dust it across the top — as little as an eighth of a teaspoon is plenty for most people. I use about a teaspoon of paprika, I like the flavor but it really is more for color consistency than anything else.

The thing that is a little iffy to me is the orange zest. I love the flavor in this but I don’t always love the texture. I’ve tried zip-tying the orange zest (around a half teaspoon) into a coffee filter and boiling it in a little water to get the flavor out of it, and just adding the water to the sauce, but that hasn’t really worked out for me. So normally I just dump the orange zest into the sauce. An alternative if you have fresh oranges is to put a large chunk of peel into the sauce while it simmers and remove the whole thing before serving. That works pretty well.

The last thing I usually add is the jalapeños. This is a personal choice. I like this to be a very spicy sauce so I normally use the hot jalapeños in this, but you have to remember it also has Tabasco in it so the heat may get a little too fiery for some people if you do that. You can use mild or medium if you want to. No one will make fun of you. In some cultures it’s probably even acceptable for a man to cry like a three-year-old girl.

It is okay to use fresh jalapeños in this, too. This is already a “bright” flavored sauce and the fresh pepper flavor will only brighten it more. You might need a touch more sugar and ketchup to keep the flavor balanced. Keep in mind that fresh peppers will need to be simmered longer than the canned ones.

I normally let this simmer while I’m messing around with the meat and the grill. Not a real long time because I like don’t want the onions to completely turn to mush. Don’t let it burn either. A lot of barbecue sauces are only improved if you let them get sticky and then deglaze them and bring them back to a smooth consistency. All this stuff will do is wind up tasting like a fire-starter log.

After you have your chicken or pork done to the point that you’re only going to turn it one more time, put some of the sauce on your meat. Not too much, just enough to get cooked on and seal the flavor. Save the rest of the sauce for dipping at the table.

This also works pretty well if you’re baking chicken. And I know this sounds insane, but it is also a good sauce for homemade pizza as well with some ham and bacon and a little mozzarella.

You’ll want to have plenty of sweet wine to cool this down. The sweetest Riesling or Gewurztraminer you can find should do nicely.

About: Edwin E. Smith:
Edwin E. Smith is a poet, heckuva writer and all around swell guy. Send him an email at or visit him on the Internet at

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